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Usability Topics

User Interface

Customized Reporting


Data Accuracy


Ease of Use

Standard Windows User Interface

Because usability is critical for software, one of the most important features of Deep-Sky Planner is its user interface. It is designed following Microsoft's Windows App Certification guidelines, so it has the consistent look and feel that you expect of Windows products. Using it is easy and straightforward. Version 8 includes extensive enhancements to the user interface, including support of scaling for high resolution displays (4k monitors) and dark and light themes.

light style
Light app style (click to enlarge)

dark style
Dark app style (click to enlarge)

In Deep-Sky Planner, you open a document which displays the parameters you might need to request a calculation for planetary information or to search deep-sky and stellar catalogs. Different types of documents accommodate different types of requests. Once you have set the parameters, you perform the search or calculation and the result is presented in the same document window. You can edit the parameters and repeat the process as desired, and the parameters can be saved to a file for future use. You can print the document (including the reported data), save it as formatted text, HTML or delimited text (CSV). You can also open multiple documents at once which is nice for researching more complex situations.

There are many convenience features included that are typical of Windows products:

Opening document(s) by dragging and dropping from Windows Explorer or the desktop onto Deep-Sky Planner is also supported.

Works with Windows 10, 8.1: Pain Free UAC

Deep-Sky Planner 8 is designed to 'play nicely' with the security scheme in Windows 8.1 and 10: it can run from either an administrative or standard user account with User Account Control turned on. Three features require administrative privileges to run: choosing the ASCOM driver for your telescope, setting system time using a time service or a telescope mount, and using Smart Chart Interoperation™ with Starry Night and Deep-Sky Planner. You may need administrative privileges when Using Smart Chart Interoperation™ with TheSky and Redshift on 64-bit Windows. Other than these situations, UAC stays happy. You can resolve any of these situations by running Deep-Sky Planner as Administrator.

Two installation modes are available - one for individual user(s) and one for all users of the computer. Product maintenance (updating) can be done without administrative privileges when installed in individual user mode. Knightware recommends installing for individual user accounts.

Windows Integration

Deep-Sky Planner supports several Windows Explorer integration features that make opening, printing and exporting CSV, HTML or formatted text reports from a saved document a snap. All of these functions can be done from inside Deep-Sky Planner but they can also be done directly from Windows Explorer.

The screen shots to the right depict these capabilities using Windows 10, but they work the same way with Windows 8.1 too. Note that the document file(s) must be created and saved previously with  Deep-Sky Planner, and that open, print and export functions are available from within Deep-Sky Planner too.

Opening a document from Windows Explorer

To start Deep-Sky Planner and open a document, select the document in Windows Explorer and click the Open button on the tool bar.

Printing a document from Windows Explorer

To print a Deep-Sky Planner document, select the document in Windows Explorer and click the Print button. The usual Print dialog is displayed for you to select a printer and any special printing options such as landscape mode.

Exporting a document from Windows Explorer

To export a report from a Deep-Sky Planner document, right-click on the document to display the context menu and select an export format for the report (e.g., Export HTML). You can also export a report to CSV or text format, or open or print a document using this method.


Customized Reporting

Deep-Sky Planner permits customization of reports whether the report is displayed on screen, printed or exported to HTML, formatted text or delimited text. Customizations include data formatting, report content and layout formatting, font and color choices.

Data Formats

Dates Examples: Dec 31 2005, 31 Dec 2005, 2005 Dec 31, 12/31/2005 etc
Times 12 hour or 24 hour, local or universal
RA Examples: 01h.234, 01h02m.3, 01h02m03s
Decl Examples: +01°.23, +01°02'.3, +01°02'
Latitude/Longitude Examples: 89°.99 N, 89°59'59" N
Altitude Examples: +10°.2, +10°02'.3, +10°
Azimuth Examples: 100°.2, 100°02'.3, 100°; Reckoned from north or south

Report Content Formatting

Any data item (column) can be switched on and off in reports. Columns can also be moved. These settings are retained and can be changed at any time. Preconfigured layouts are also available with a mouse click.

Deep-sky Planner video library Video snip: Customizing your report view.

Report Layout Formatting

Most reports are presented as tabular text. The columns can be resized for optimal viewing and printing, or you can use the Fit Columns feature which calculates the minimum column size necessary for each column's content. In addition, columns can be moved to any order that you wish. Column ordering is retained and can be changed at any time.

Report Styling

Users can choose font and color combinations that suit individual needs. These stylesheets can be saved and exchanged with other users online through the Deep-Sky Planner Community.


Deep-Sky Planner provides a comprehensive online help file and user's manual. The help file is provided in HTML Help format which allows you to use the Full Text Searching facility. The user's manual is provided in Adobe Reader (pdf) format.

Deep-Sky Planner provides context sensitive help for all menus, dialog boxes, and document windows. These are accessed by pressing F1 or by pressing the Help button in each document or dialog box.

Astronomical Algorithms and Accuracy

Deep-Sky Planner uses the software library that accompanies Jean Meeus' Astronomical Algorithms. A few problems in that software have been found and fixed in Deep-Sky Planner.

The accuracy of deep-sky and stellar data relies on the original catalogs: size, magnitude, etc are taken directly from the catalogs; positions are precessed to epoch and mean equinox of J2000.0 where necessary.

The accuracy of calculated data has received special attention. Calculated data include planetary events and ephemerides, apparent positions of objects, ephemerides of visual binary systems, predicted extrema of variable stars, and rise, set, transit times and angles for deep-sky and stellar data. The accuracy of each type of calculation is documented so that users can be confident in the quality of the calculations.